This October, the World Congress of Families will hold its international conference in Salt Lake City. These conferences happen every couple of years and have been held in locations such as Prague, Mexico City, Amsterdam, Madrid, Sydney and Geneva. This year marks the first time the conference will convene in the United States.
When we were initially invited to speak at the event, some of our friends advised against it. They warned us that the WCF was an ultra-conservative, right-wing organization that had been labeled by some as a “hate group” based on its opposition to same-sex marriage.
We guess we kind of went against that advice, because we will be speaking at the conference — twice.
Here's the way we see it: We need all the groups, conferences and organizations we can get that will draw attention to the needs of children and the importance of marriage and commitment in families, irrespective of their ideologies. We are happy to speak about parenting and family relationships any time we have the chance to most any group, so long as its underlying purpose is making life better for children and helping families be happier and more functional. To us, these child-centered priorities are more important than positions on divisive political issues.
In fact, earlier this year, we spoke in Los Angeles at the annual conference of the Fathers and Families Coalition — an organization that many would say is on the other end of the political spectrum from the WCF. That conference had a decidedly liberal tone and focused a lot on government grants. It was also clearly organized and attended by people who cared about children and about the family environment they grow up in — in this case with a particular emphasis on the importance of fathers in a child’s life.
If family centric groups of different political stripes are critical of and fight against each other, we weaken our ability to fight against the many forces that are harming children, discouraging marriage, taking parents' priorities away from their kids and trying to make families irrelevant.
As we wrote in our column a couple of weeks ago, the largest threat to our society and to our economy is not the way people define marriage, but how enthusiastically and committedly they participate in it. People who really care about children and about couples who want to commit to each other and to their kids need to learn to work together rather than be divided by issues that affect far fewer people. We need to encourage and celebrate commitment and popularize parenting.
As we also stated, estimates put the percentage of the U.S. population that is gay at between 2 and 4 percent. Meanwhile, among the 96 to 98 percent of heterosexuals, most seem to be devaluing or completely disregarding the value of marriage.
And therein lies the most urgent danger to our society — the danger that conferences like this should be focusing on and trying to solve.
We are hoping that the Salt Lake City meeting of the World Congress of Families will focus more on the things that bring those who care about kids together rather than on the things that may divide them. If we do, we will find that the various factions have far more in common than they imagine — both in their experience and in their beliefs. When we concentrate on love, on our children and on our commitment to our spouses, there is always more that unites us than divides us.
We know this will be our focus when we speak there.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors and founders of JoySchools.com who speak worldwide on marriage and parenting issues. Visit them at valuesparenting.com or eyrealm.com.